Black Jack Press’s combines five unique stories into one anthology in Tall Tales from the Badlands #3. This 50+ page “Weird West” anthology makes you play a guessing game as to what will happen in each story, keeping you on your toes by reminding you that things are never what they seem. Ghosts, zombies and even cannibals make an appearance in Tall Tales from the Badlands #3. For a first experience in the “Weird West” genre, I have to say I’m fairly pleased by it.
The anthology is an exceptional one, keeping the consistent theme of the 1800’s Wild West, but also peppering in sci-fi, horror and fantasy, with the occasional supernatural aspect tossed in, and trust me, it works well. Each separate story has a different aspect of the paranormal and supernatural that works well with each story, differentiating them form one another by the main situation of their story. It seems that every paranormal creature in the anthology perfectly tie in with either the characters or the meaning itself of the story.
The five stories that are collected in Tall Tales from the Badlands #3 vary from theme to theme, and so does the artwork. Each story has a different form of art, as no same artist (or writer for that matter) work on another story in the anthology. But this doesn’t take away from the book, it actually strengthens it. The different artwork works well with each story, basically matching the theme of whichever story you may be reading. For instance, in the story of All Mine in the anthology shows the darkness and despair the narrator of the story is going through.
Let’s take a quick look at the stories in Tall Tales from the Badlands #3.
Writer: Mark Wheaton
Art: Jerry Decaire
The Judgment of the People follows a corrupted judge, who wrongly sentences people to their deaths, mainly for crimes they did not commit. One such case, the judge sentenced a young boy wrongly accused for stealing horses from a ranch.
Eventually the judge falls ill and is close to death. He asks Kazmir Janousek, the father of the boy accused of stealing horse, to make a monument for his grave. Janousek obliged, and carved in all the names the judge wrongfully sent to death into the artwork of the monument.
When the judge eventually dies, we see that he isn’t sent up to meet God like he expected, but begins being tortured by those he sentenced to death on his stand, and Janousek hangs himself over the sorrow following the death of his son.
The owner of the town newspaper, who knows what the judge does but is powerless to do anything, and has had bad encounters with the judge, narrates this story. Having him narrating the story worked well though for The Judgment of the People, almost as if it gave an outside look into what was occurring in the story.The Judgement of the People shows that justice can be gained by whatever means necessary, through the court or the supernatural.
Writer: Sean Fahey
Art: John Fortune
Apologies is tragic yet right to the point. By tragic I mean the story throws you in to the most desperate, sadist moment in a families life, and throws you into a horrific end.
Apologies follows a family, deep in the woods, starving to death in the cold. The father decides to end his families suffering, and pulls a gun on the children while their sleeping and their mother. After a brief argument the mother tackles the father, smashing his skull off the side of their wagon. But as the father tries to go after her, he ends up accidentally shooting himself, and dying in her arms.
Screaming for help, three hunters emerge from the forest. Pleading for help and food for her children, the men draw their knives on her, explaining they haven’t eaten in a long time either, and that they see “more than enough food here”. Remember when I said there are cannibals earlier? You’ve probably guessed by now that these men are them.
Every single panel in this story emphasizes the desperation and sorrow this family is feeling, and to have it end in such a dark and gruesome turn of events completely overshadows the fact that you just saw a desperate father try and put his family out of their misery.
Writer: Robert Napton
Art: Franco Cespedes
In Rustlers a group of bandits plan steal a train, one that they think is carrying valuable cargo to the occupant of the train. After successfully stealing it, the bandits go and check what the cargo is while the leader of the group interrogates Mister Jenkins, the occupant of the train.
After a brief discussion with Jenkins, the leader of the bandits hears gunfire from the the cargo hold of the train. When he goes to investigate he’s met with the most gruesome sight in his life, his companions being eaten alive by, you’ve guessed it, flesh eating zombies.
We find out that Jenkins found these creatures feasting on his horses, so he captured them and calls them “Rustlers”. The karma comes around on him though, as his precious creatures escape and attack him in the end.
Most might think this story is a zombie one, but it really feels more like a heist gone wrong situation instead. No one could have expected that there would be a train full of zombie in the wild west!
Writer: Matt Dembicki
Art: Ezequiel Rosingana
Much like the Lone Ranger, All Mine follows and old Irish man and Cheveyo, a native Indian of the area, stumble upon a cave containing vast amount amounts of gold. But after the Irish man drunkenly says too much at the bar, and a group of Union deserters overhear him and track the pair back to their gold mine.
In the process of trying to take the cave form the two men, Cheveyo is shot and killed by one of the deserters. Fleeing to the back of the cave with his dead comrades corps, the Irish man tries to hide, but to no avail as the deserters search the cave and find him. Once they do find him, a ghost appears, seemingly to be the dead Cheveyo, giving the Irish man the perfect opportunity to blow up the gold mine, and all of its occupants.
All Mine makes you feel for the old Irish man when he loses his friend. You feel his sorry as you read further in the story as his regret seeps off of the words. You could almost expect the ghost of Cheveyo to appear however, as the character was silent the whole story, only emphasizing emotion when he punched his comrade in the face. The element of the paranormal in this one is basically justified, as the ghost must have returned to either help save his friend, or force him to avenge his death and protect the mine from these greedy deserters. You get a feel for the bigger story that must be between these two companions, and actually begin to care about them.
Writer: Sean Fahey
Art: Ruben Rojas
Cleverly titled, Where the Heart Is touches your heart a little, giving you a great sense of dedication and family.
The story follows a hardworking farm family, going through their daily business when their family friends, the Davenports, show up. Tom, the father of the Davenports, explains to his friend Jake that they can’t live in Colorado anymore, and are planning on going back home to Boston.
Through a heated argument over how much it took for both families to get where they are and how much they’ve done to get to this point, Jake and his family accept the fact that the Davenports are leaving. After denying the Davenports offer to come back with them, saying that they’ve committed themselves to their land and their family, and will never leave. Jake’s wife then hands them her necklace and the Davenport’s time travels back to the future to Boston.
To backtrack, I was a little confused at first during the families argument when they were talking about traffic and walking down the street to a Starbucks, but it all made sense when the Davenport’s vanished to the future. As sad as it was to see the reactions of these families parting ways, you can also see the level of commitment and dedication this family has to their new timeline and home.
Tall Tales form the Badlands #3 kept me wanting to read more, to see what happens to these characters in the stories collected in the anthology. Apologies was the story that took my breath away in the entire anthology however. Sean Fahey and John Fortune do a tremendous job with this story, capturing every emotion this family is going through in every panel. It takes you through a roller coaster ride of emotions, from feeling bad for such a sad and tragic situation this family is in, to worrying about the father getting his way and the downward spiral that they’re in. The kicker was the cannibals at the end. They came out of nowhere, tricking me into thinking help has come for this unfortunate family. But the second last panel, where all you see is the hunters blade being drawn, is probably the most soul crushing sight I’ve seen in awhile.
Tall Tales form the Badlands #3 does exceedingly well job depicting just how horrific and weird the “Weird West” can be, but fits in well. Exceptionally clear and concise for an anthology, Tall Tales from the Badlands #3 is a smooth read, with extremely distinctive stories throughout.